The ASX-listed company started its export business into China in Q1 this year via a partnership with Hunan Yandi Biotech – a direct-selling company which also has online presence and health foods stores distribution networks.
The first two shipments of its native wildflower honey were sold out during pre-orders and the company is sending its third shipment, amounting to 21,120 units early this month.
Owning a tea tree plantation in north of New South Wales, the company produces a range of products from the Melaleuca alternifolia tea tree, including its signature products – raw honey infused with tea tree.
It also sells hemp seed honey which contains a higher protein content and tea tree oil.
On top of the its native wildflower honey, the firm will be selling its tea tree honey and tea tree oil into China this month.
China is now the company’s biggest honey product export destination, contributing about 60% to 65% to the business, CEO Bill Fry told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“The pristine nature of the honey comes from the tea tree forest and it is very popular because of its medicinal attributes.
“People are really interested in honey as an immunity building product and that's what driving our sales in China,” Fry said.
On the immunity benefits of honey, there are studies which have shown that it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-mycobacterial properties.
The company first started the sale of its honey products 18 months ago in the domestic market, which makes up 10% to 20% of its honey business.
The sales channels in Australia included Amazon, the company’s own website, and individual distributors who distribute the products to organic and health food stores.
The focus, however, will be on the export business, said Fry.
“Australia is important for us in terms of having our products selling well here in Australia and certainly they do.
“But Australia is a smaller market and there are many honey productions, so our focus is to take our honey business offshore.”
Taiwan, Japan, Spore
Looking further afield, the company has in its pipeline Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore as the next destinations for its export business.
In Taiwan, it was approached by direct-selling wellness company AIFYA, which is already promoting its native wildflower honey on its Facebook page.
Elsewhere in Japan, the company has already set up its store on Amazon and is planning to load the products by late October or early November.
Instead of raw honey, the focus in Japan will be on its “Raw Probiotic Concentrate with Native Honey and Lemon”. The product contains six probiotic strains, each added at different stages of the bio-fermentation process.
A different strategy was used in Japan because of the country’s long association with bio-fermented products, Fry explained.
As for Singapore, an Amazon store has been set up and the company plans to tap on Singapore’s strategic location as a gateway into the South East Asian market.
“China is increasingly a key importer of honey. It is showing the strongest growth in all the countries.
“Japan and the US are the traditional large-scale importers of honey,” he said, adding that sales from the US made up about a quarter of its honey business.
Shipment to Canada via Amazon is also set to take place soon.
To expand its product range, the company is planning to incorporate local nature botanical species into its honey products.
A project in the pipeline is to add in the Kakadu plum, which contains high level of vitamin C, into its honey and its honey probiotic concentrate.
The new products are expected to first launch in Australia in Q1 next year, before being introduced to the other markets.
Bushfire and keeping up
Bushfire is a risk in Australia and the company has set in place measures to mitigate the risk, such as doing back-burning and controlling the fuel load in the forest.
“We have a comprehensive bushfire plan that we employ for our farms that protected us last year. On our commercial plantation, the fire got to the edge of that, but it didn’t affect that because of the firebreak that we have in place.
“We do back-burn to control the fire risk and control the fuel load within the forest, its quite a common practice and that mitigated some of the risk,” Fry said.
The suppliers that the firm works with will also move the hives away in view of pending fire risks.
To keep up with growth from its export markets, the company has doubled the tea tree farm area that it is leasing, as well as engaging a third-party manufacturer to manufacture products for the export markets.